Rolf Hiller (*5th January 1928, †25th March 2020) has created something unique. When the Nordic Days were held in Lübeck in 1956 to deepen the economic and cultural relations between Germany and Scandinavia, he recognized the opportunity and with courage and foresight used the event as a showcase for Scandinavian film art. In doing so, he gave a home to a cinematography whose young directors, above all Ingmar Bergman, had just caused a sensation in Europe and at the same time put Lübeck on the map of the film festival in Germany. After Berlin, Mannheim, Oberhausen and Leipzig, Lübeck now made the "handful". Rolf Hiller was just 28 years old at the time, chairman of the Lübeck Film Club and a visionary, because with a successful artistic selection and clever organisational decisions he set the festival on sustainability.
He did not only have the film fans of his hometown in mind, but saw Lübeck as a hub between Scandinavia and the European continent. He closely involved the Scandinavian partners in the planning, and commissioned film critic Will Wehling, curator (and later director) of the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, to handle the press work. In addition to the well-documented film events, there were presentations and discussions on film art and film policy topics, and from the very beginning "conference tickets" were sold for the entire event to attract foreigners. Even in the early years, the list of participants contained 250 guests, including 60 members of the press, who spread the fame of the festival. Besides the Senate of the Hanseatic City of Lübeck, Rolf Hiller sought further support from the Ministry of Culture of the State of Schleswig-Holstein and the Federal Ministry of the Interior. He was also able to win film associations and institutions such as the Schleswig-Holstein Film Club Association or the German Institute for Film Studies as partners alongside the Scandinavian film institutes. Rolf Hiller was also always resistant, criticising the "one-sided image of Nordic film in Germany" or the wrong "distribution and import policy" and deploring the lack of support from those responsible in Lübeck. Nevertheless, he managed to organize and develop the festival from 1956 to 1970 as chairman of the film club or the association Nordische Filmtage Lübeck, until this was no longer possible with a purely voluntary organisation and the Hanseatic City of Lübeck took over the festival.
But Rolf Hiller remained a faithful, attentive and critical companion of the festival, he not only came with his wife Irene to the opening event and award ceremony, but also visited selected film screenings. He did not agree with all the films, there were also always "Luschen" (lame filmes) present. But whenever we at the Nordische Filmtage needed his support or material from the early years, Rolf Hiller was there to help. He called or came by the office and spread his treasures out in front of us. It was always a pleasure to talk to him, about films, culture, Lübeck, God and the world. We will miss him, his enthusiasm and joy of opinion, his wisdom and quick-wittedness and the mischief in his eyes.
Without Rolf Hiller we would not exist, and without him Lübeck would be so much poorer. We can only say THANK YOU, ROLF HILLER!
Linde Fröhlich, artistic director, Nordische Filmtage Lübeck